So many of us say when I retire I will travel. Or when I die I’ll sleep. We live to enjoy our accomplishments, but do we really? We barely sleep and work hard for things to impress others of our nonexistent status. Some of us still struggle to get rooted in our purpose, but work hard, but hardly paying the bills. We watch our health dwindle away with our willpower. Like a knife, we need to be sharpened from time to time. If we don’t take time to sharpen ourselves we crash.

This year’s sleep health week theme, “Begin with Sleep” highlighted the importance of good sleep to best achieve your personal, family, and professional goals. Getting enough sleep improves us mentally, emotionally and physically.

The National Sleep Foundation found in a survey one in ten people prioritize sleep in their daily life. The average human spends about 25 years of their life sleeping or 1/3 of their life. Sleep is equally as important as food.

There’s no set amount of sleep for everyone, you have to listen to your body. The right amount of sleep ranges from 7-9 hours a day.

We may not feel accomplished, but our bodies are accomplishing so much to keep us alive while we sleep. And sorry, no, you cannot catch up on lost sleep. Attempting to make up lost hours only results in throwing off your sleep schedule even more.

Research in Brazil showed intelligent individuals with an active lifestyle excluding aerobic fitness were likely to suffer from poor quality sleep.

Sleep Cycles and Stages

There are two cycles of sleep: NREM and REM. We spent the majority of our sleep in NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) or deep sleep. We need deep sleep to help our body release hormones that assist with cell reproduction and repair. There are 5 stages of sleep we go through throughout the night every 90 to 110 minutes.

  • Stage One- Light sleep- lasts 1-7 minutes
  • Stage Two- Brain activity slows, your eyes stop moving- lasts- 10 to 25 minutes
  • Stage Three- Moderate Sleep- moderate sleep- 20-40 minutes
  • Stage Four- Your muscles relax and breathing becomes slow and rhythmic, which can lead to snoring. Lasts 20-40 minutes
  • Stage Five- Deep Sleep- Muscles begin to perk up, most dreams, muscles temporarily paralyzed and REM (rapid eye movement)- 10-60 minutes.


5 stages of sleep

Image via BedJet


Benefits of Sleep

So, what exactly is our body doing during sleep (sleep benefits):

  • During sleep, our brain washes away waste that the brain cells make.
  • Gives our heart a break by reducing heart rate and blood pressure. That red bull or monster you had in mind might be putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Our heart needs a break just like we do to repair.
  • Endocannabinoids are regulated by sleep. If they go unregulated they will result in less NREM sleep or deep sleep. When we lose NREM sleep we are more likely to cheat on our diets. Endocannabinoids regulate our rewards system and cravings. An experiment performed by the University of Chicago discovered their patients who slept 4.5 hours rather than 8.5 hours had higher levels of endocannabinoids and gained weight.
  • Heard of sleeping on something before you decide? Sleep helps improve our ability to make a decision we won’t regret. It’s easier to control our willpower on a diet when we have adequate sleep otherwise you might be saying yes to the free cake at work. Sleep can help lower our anxiety levels. There’s no reason for your body to go into unnecessary fight or flight survival mode over drama.
  • Boosts your immunity.
  • Repairs muscles. If you’re actively working out at the gym, it’s important to get a full night of sleep. Lifting weights causes our muscles to tear and when we rest they grow stronger. Adequate sleep prevents prolonged achy muscles. The healing of your heart and blood vessels.


How to get more sleep

  • Remove all electronics from the bedroom. Take the television out of your room and stop using your cell phone as an alarm clock. Keep the computer out of the bedroom.
  • According to the Sleep Foundation, our bedroom should be a sanctuary from our stresses. To figure out how to create this environment we should use our 5 senses.
  • Make sure your bedroom is the right temperature. It should be around 65 degrees
  • Make sure your mattress isn’t too stiff.
  • Comfortable pajamas.
  • Not too many pillows or blankets
  • Know when to replace your mattress. Most have a lifespan of 8 years.
  • Depending on if you work the night shift, get shades for your bedroom.
  • Check out some Apps to measure your NREM and REM. The apps can figure out when you are sleeping light and wake you up then.
  • Use a night light instead of lamps or overhead lights when you get up to go to the bathroom or get a drink at night.
  • Keep a sleep diary. Even noting what you ate that day can help figure out patterns.


Best Sleep Apps

Top rated sleep apps you can use for sleep according to Medical News Today:

  1. Relax Melodies
  2. Sleep Cycle
  3. Recolor
  4. Sleeptime
  5. Pillow
  6. Relax and Sleep Well
  7. Digipill
  8. Good Morning Alarm Clock
  9. Pzizz
  10. Noisli

Improve sleep habits ASAP! Sufficient sleep is part of loving yourself and being healthy. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. As you know, all of those diseases are linked to obesity. Reduce risk of obesity but committing to sufficient sleep every night.

Remember when you are stressed, rest. Increased cortisol levels can cause you to mistaken sleep deprivation for hunger. I’m guilty of in the past raiding the snack machine trying to stay awake while working three jobs. When I reclaimed my sleep schedule I became more aware of what my body needs. When in doubt HALT- Ask yourself if you are really hungry, angry, tired or lonely?

Feature image via